I joined the wave of summer travel last month. In the whirlwind of it all, I remembered to pack my bags, upload a scan of my vaccination card, and upload my boarding pass. Before running out, however, I didn’t think about plugging in the security camera that overlooked my studio. Face, meet the palm.
Smart surveillance devices from brands like Ring, Nest, and Arlo make home security easy and affordable, which is why they’ve won over tech-savvy households. Cameras are the second most popular smart home device behind thermostats, according to consulting firm Strategy Analytics. In addition to providing security, cameras can help you keep track of animal keepers, couriers, yard workers, and other people who might have a good reason to be home while you travel. .
These devices will only help you monitor your home if they are turned on and connected to the internet, of course. You’re not a model, so you probably won’t leave your camera unplugged like I did. But there are other considerations: don’t let a dead battery or a weak signal keep you in the dark. Before your next trip, you’ll want to confirm that your security cameras are operational and digitally and physically protected. Here is how to audit your video surveillance system.
Check the strength of your Wi-Fi signal. Many devices allow you to evaluate this in the settings. Ring users can access the Device Status page to view internet speeds and signal strength. Large metallic or structural objects, such as a TV or water tank, can affect connectivity. Try moving your router closer to the device or to a more open central location. If you have multiple devices scattered around your home, try implementing a mesh Wi-Fi network, which covers your home with wireless internet and can improve indoor and outdoor connectivity.
Create a secure and unique password. “These services are routinely targeted in so-called credential jamming attacks,” said Craig Young, senior security researcher at Tripwire, a cybersecurity company. “This is where an attacker will use usernames and passwords stolen in other breaches to guess connections from other sites.” With your connection, hackers can watch and listen to live video streams in your home, so make sure you have a strong password and enable multi-factor authentication.
A good password manager can help create long and unique passphrases, remember them, and automatically fill in those credentials for you as well, simplifying the sign-in process for all of your online accounts.
Update camera firmware. Companies regularly release security patches that can help prevent hijackings. Go to your device’s app to see if it’s running the latest version of the software.
Also protect your Wi-Fi network. Does your home Wi-Fi network have a strong password that is not easily guessed? If not, change it. And make sure it is set to WPA2 or WPA3 encryption. This will prevent snoopers from accessing the home network that powers your security devices. You can usually find this setting in your router’s app. (If your router doesn’t have an app, you can still access it by typing in your router’s web address, but it may indicate that you need to update your Wi-Fi network.)
If you regularly give out your Wi-Fi password to visitors, consider creating a guest network, a fairly standard option on newer routers. This way you can share your Wi-Fi without giving access to devices on your network.
Enable end-to-end video encryption. Ring recently introduced full end-to-end encryption for video and audio recordings. This means that only mobile devices with the feature enabled can see the videos – they cannot be analyzed by people at Ring or its parent company, Amazon..
In the Ring app, go to Control Center, then select Video encryption, then Advanced settings, and then End-to-end video encryption. You will need to create a password for the encrypted videos. There is no way to recover this password if you don’t remember it, so save it in a password manager or other safe place.
Other brands offer different degrees of encryption.
Charge the batteries and opt for emergency power supplies. Some devices are battery powered, while others are plugged in. Check the battery level and fully charge it before you leave town. If you’re worried about battery draining, consider backup options like this Arlo weatherproof solar panel charger.
Also, when winter comes, remember that lithium-ion batteries, like those found in some Ring doorbells, will run out more quickly in cold weather.
While battery-powered devices are protected against power outages, your internet router is not. Ring’s alarm system, which offers professional monitoring for $ 10 per month, has a back-up cellular system in the event of a power failure. You can also purchase affordable battery backup devices, such as this APC Back-UPS from Schneider Electric, which can protect your modem and router from surges or power outages.
Activate motion detection. Most devices have this feature, and some can distinguish a person from other moving objects so you don’t drown in notifications. Check if there are specific recommendations for motion capture from the device manufacturer. Arlo cameras, for example, are better equipped to detect lateral movement rather than movement towards the camera, so you will need to position the device accordingly.
Evaluate your lighting. While many cameras have night vision, total darkness can mean poor visibility. Faces can also appear washed out due to overexposure. Changing the angle of the camera can help with this.
Lights can also act as an effective deterrent. Ring and Arlo offer spotlight cameras that can detonate areas with bright LED lights (and even emit a siren to scare off potential burglars). Ring users can also link devices together. If a camera detects motion, for example, it can trigger a spotlight and path lights to turn on or other cameras to start recording.
Enable sound detection on smart speakers. With a Nest Aware subscription ($ 6 per month), Nest cameras, as well as Google speakers like Google Home, Home Mini, and Nest Hub, can detect sound from smoke or glass break detectors.
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Alexa Guard, which is free to use with Echo speakers, also listens to the sounds of broken glass and smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. It can also automatically turn smart lights on and off while you are away. A paid version, Guard Plus ($ 5 per month, but also included in a $ 10 per month Ring Protect Plus subscription), can listen to human activities such as footsteps or words, and play a siren or the sound of a barking dog — when it detects a possible intruder. An emergency helpline operator can call the police, fire department or an ambulance on your behalf.
Climb within easy reach, but not too high. Place your camera near entry points (front door, back door, garage, basement stairwell, etc.). A visible security camera could deter potential intruders, so keep it in sight. If the device has a status light, leave it on.
Ring recommends placing outdoor cameras about 9 feet above the ground, while Arlo suggests that its devices be placed at least 7 feet high and within 15 feet of the planned activity. Ideally, you want devices at a height where they can’t be easily tampered with, but close enough that they can clearly see people’s faces.
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